Patch-testing with Hairdressing Chemicals

Michael Z. Wang; Sara A. Farmer; Donna M. Richardson; Mark D.P. Davis


Dermatitis. 2011;22(1):16-26. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Background: Hairdressing chemicals may be associated with allergic contact dermatitis.
Objective: To review our experience of patch-testing with hairdressing chemicals.
Methods: We reviewed results from patients who underwent patch testing with our standard allergen series (including 15 hairdressing chemicals) and a supplementary "hairdresser series" (18 additional hairdressing chemicals) at Mayo Clinic (Rochester, MN; Scottsdale, AZ; and Jacksonville, FL) from January 1, 2000, through December 31, 2008.
Results: Two hundred ten patients (mean age, 53.8 years [SD, 16.9 yr]; female, 94.8%) were patch-tested. The most common sites of dermatitis were the scalp, face, and hands. Patients had widely varying occupations. The most common occupations were cosmetologist (10.5%), housewife (9.5%), and beautician (5.2%); 14.3% were retired. The hairdresser series detected 13 additional patients with allergies (6.4%; 204 patients tested with both series) who would not have been detected with the standard allergen series alone. The highest allergic patch-test rates in the supplemental hairdresser series were with ammonium persulfate (14.4%), 4-aminoazobenzene (13.4%), and pyrogallol (9.1%).
Conclusions: Patch-testing with hairdressing-specific chemicals (standard series plus supplemental hairdresser series) was appropriate for numerous clinical situations and was not limited to patients in hair care occupations. The supplemental hairdresser series helped identify more patients than would have been identified with the standard series alone.


A Broad Range of chemicals is used in the hairdressing industry, and many of these chemicals are also available for purchase for home use. Chemicals in hairdressing products have been recognized as common causes of contact dermatitis among hairdressers and barbers, as well as among the general population.[1–5] According to the US Department of Labor, more than 300,000 US citizens worked as hairdressers, hairstylists, or cosmetologists in 2008.[6] Occupational contact dermatitis has been a significant health concern in this industry.

Although the standard allergen series used in patch testing includes 15 hairdressing chemicals, allergies to other hairdressing chemicals may not be detected without specialized testing. Therefore, for patients with suspected allergies specific to chemicals used in hairdressing materials, we supplement the standard series with a "hairdresser series" of allergens. In this report, we review our 9-year experience with allergens in the standard and hairdresser series.